Sometimes I don’t write because I fear I won’t be able to adequately cover every nook and cranny of a subject that matters deeply to me. Out of fear I end up not writing many good things because I fear I can’t write enough. Thankfully, it’s not my job to cover every ounce of truth in the world – that has already happened. So I offer here this one bit of my thoughts about something that I believe is intricate, delicate, and complex.
Jesus was a very political person.
In a day like our today, it’s hard to imagine what that word, ‘political,’ actually means without conjuring up images of legislative standstills and polarization. Our ‘today’ is not framework enough to fully explain what it is to be political. Yes – politics is still inherently about power systems. But what we forget is that ‘politics’ does not prefer one system over another; politics is not innately about taking sides. We forget this, in our today, with the way our today is.
Jesus was a very political person.
His mere birth as an infant caused a ruling human king to mass genocide all male babies in the land, out of zeal to kill this baby Jesus – headlines material, folks. Jesus, was a political person from the start.
Simply put, his type of politics was about power systems rather than about taking sides; he was quite concerned with the kingdoms of his day. Quite concerned, in fact, with how kingdoms righteously or unrighteously organized people into strata. Primarily, and quite frankly, the type of ‘disorganization’ of humans he hates the most is when humans dictate a dignity for each other that is lower than the value he has already assigned, but this is (somewhat) beyond the point.
As a political person, Jesus’ kingdom too was a political overthrow of the kingdoms of his day, and of all future days. His coming was a boss move, a complete coup d’état that was meant to commence the restoring of order to a disordered people. A people, yes – all of them – caught in the wrong social strata. A people who, through either their own assigning or through others’ valuation, had been assigned less dignity than Jesus’ original listing. A people – all of them – without a true home, without a framework for lasting change. Without a means for a permanent restore, a once-and-for-all upgrade. Redo. Reset.
If we’re going with my logic here, then I’ll remind us that politics is not immanently about polarization or division. All at once, however – and not without paradox – we know from our model Jesus that truth divides down to the marrow. This is Truth’s job. This is Truth’s existence. So while I don’t believe Jesus came to divide, I also don’t believe he came to be ‘liked’ by all. He came with power, with purpose. It was power wrought in complete and perfect humility and understanding…but it was power. And it was controversial. His new power system came to rightfully order that which had been disordered, and the folks who had been doing the ordering prior did not like this, because it removed them from their “thrones” of (limited) human understanding. It didn’t leave room for a bigger-than Truth.
What is further beautiful about Truth – and Truth’s job, existence, and this new power system that I speak of – is while it divides, it heals. Jesus, as Truth, was both the letter and the spirit of the law. He came to be the translation of what were very strict codes. He came to dismiss the social stigma around human failure by walking around with a beating heart as well as very sound truth. He is not scared of failure, of disorder. He is not scared of humanity. He is actually quite big.
When we say the letter and the spirit, we mean that he is wholly Truth. We mean that he brings not only the division that must come when things are disorganized, but also the healing that comes from the reorganization.
May I be so bold to say that if something divides without also bringing healing, then it is not truly Truth? Division for division’s sake is what we call the religious spirit. The religious spirit condemns actions, words – and generally, the ruts in which we humans tend to find ourselves – to forever permanence, because the religious spirit by nature has no means to rescue those actions, words, ruts. It provides no “out.” The religious spirit does, however, provide great reason to point fingers, to hate, to be self-righteous, to “think better than.” The religious spirit does not listen; it only talks. It likes to promote itself. But I assure you, it does not rescue; it does not heal. It only divides.
So where do we find ourselves? I think we find ourselves in a society oddly familiar to the one in which Jesus originally came. There is still a good bit of religious spirit running around. The kingdom Jesus came to rescue, is the kingdom today that still needs rescuing. We still need his power system, his way of ‘politics.’ We, like those from Jesus’ time, are still a society that needs more than the letter of the law. We need a means for the law. We need to understand the walking flesh, letter and spirit of the law.
The law was made for love, and not the other way around. The thing about organizing is that it often first requires dividing what has been disordered. The initial dividing provides means through which the disordered can be rightfully ordered. The displaced people to whom Jesus first came needed the human translation of a different power system – one that was both the letter and the spirit of the law. The flesh and blood put to words. They needed, we need, the heart pumping that blood, circulating to all parts of the marrow that had been divided, that has been divided. They needed, we need, flesh for the healing. A revolution. Our own efforts to organize ourselves, fail. They needed, we need, a different power system; superior politics. They needed, we need, a righteous power system that reorders people according to their dignified design, in which bone and marrow receive all the nourishment that comes from a working human body.
I believe this will be our greatest joy and challenge. I believe it will be a struggle that brings us into the very heart of Jesus. This is the new politics.*
*It is beside the point for my purposes here, but please know I am by no means saying that it is worthless to vest interest or effort in advocating at a political (state) level. I am not saying one should shy away from affecting his or her state. I believe transforming power systems and institutions is very much an important part of Truth.